The mice that are most easily obtained as pets are house mice. Through crossbreeding, their best characteristics in terms of docility and variety of colors have been highlighted. In fact, there are currently about 40 varieties, such as Himalayan, pearl, cinnamon, blue or silver. However, these are the “thoroughbreds” of the mouse circuit, the ones you can find in a store are simpler, generally white, brown or spotted.
House mice can be extremely entertaining pets and you can spend hours watching them play. They are more elusive and difficult to pick up than other larger rodents, but if you get them used to them from a young age you can tame them so that they will let you pick them up and take their food from your hands. They are not demanding little animals, caring for them is quite simple and economical and they take up very little space.
Their life expectancy is similar to that of hamsters, they live 1 to 2 years, but some can live up to three years. They have nocturnal habits, so they will be very active from dusk onwards, but don’t expect them to do much during the day. House mice are very social animals, so they live best in pairs or small groups. Females are more docile, their urine does not smell as strong and they tend to fight less than males. If you prefer to have males, look for two siblings that have never been separated and give them a cage large enough for each to have their own private space; this way they are less likely to fight. You don’t want to mix males and females, unless you want to have hundreds of them in a short time.
When choosing a house mouse, look for one that looks agile and alert, its fur should be soft and shiny and its ears and tail should have pink fur. Its mouth, nose and anal area should look clean and without any discharge. Also look at the cage, it should be clean, as this shows that it has been well cared for, and the fecal matter should be well formed. To differentiate between males and females, look under the tail to see the distance between the anus and the genital orifice; this distance is smaller in females. If you are inexperienced, compare male and female mice at the store where you buy them. It is better if the male house mice are already separated from the females, otherwise you can take home a pregnant female.
What should the cage for house mice look like?
The size of the cage depends on the number of mice that will live in it. For a couple, a cage of 30 by 60 cm is enough. For them to have fun, it should have different levels, tunnels, stairs, wheels for exercise or anything that allows them to investigate, entertain and exercise. It is important that the bars do not allow them to escape, ideal are aquariums (with a lid that allows good ventilation) or plastic modules (these are difficult to clean). A distance of 0.5 cm between bars is sufficient to prevent house mice from escaping. It is advisable to place the cage in a place with a lot of traffic and contact with people in the house to make it easier to tame them. Cover the bottom of the cage with shavings or other appropriate material and give them material for their nest; pieces of cloth, paper or hay.
Mice need a little house bought or homemade with cardboard (you will have to change it when they break it or are dirty), PVC pipes, wood, ceramic pots or bowls, etc. Use your imagination to create tunnels, passages, caves, bridges and anything with holes to enter and exit with different materials. For water you will need a bottle with a drip system and a ceramic or glass bowl that does not tip over and is washable for food.
Feeding the house mouse
The nutritional needs of house mice are generally covered by commercial hamster or rodent feed. You can also use seed mixes, but make sure they eat everything or select only what they like. A good option is to mix pellets with seeds, but make sure they eat all the pellets before giving them more seeds. You can also offer small pieces of fresh fruits and vegetables. In this case, keep an eye out for any that cause diarrhea and do not give them any again. Another thing they can eat is cooked pasta or rice or whole wheat bread, and as treats they will welcome peanuts, sunflower seeds, purchased treats for rodents. All of these are high in calories and should not be overdone. Dog cookies are also a good choice for house mice, because they provide protein (which is often lacking in seed mixes) and are hard enough to wear down teeth.
Nowadays it is difficult to see mice as pets, since hamsters and guinea pigs have become more popular, but they should not be left aside because they are a good option when choosing a pet. Their maintenance is simple and economical, they practically do not lose hair so they do not bother allergic people, they are fun, they can be kept in pairs to play with each other. Their small size, however, does not make them good pets for children under 5 years old.